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Using the ABCDE Method to Check Your Moles

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States? About 9,500 Americans are diagnosed every day, and millions more are affected each year. 

At Allen A. Flood, MD, Dermatology on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, we help our patients catch skin cancer early by learning what to watch out for when it comes to moles.

Moles appear when the pigment-producing cells in your skin go into overdrive. You can develop moles at any age, but they usually appear in childhood and early adulthood. 

Since moles come in all sizes, colors, and textures, it can be challenging to know when a mole is just a mole or when it’s related to skin cancer. The good news is that if you know your alphabet, there’s a simple way to check the health of your moles.  

The ABCDE method

While their appearance may be bothersome, most moles are benign (not cancerous). Moles vary tremendously in their appearance, and they can change — or even disappear — over time. 

The ABCDE mole check method makes it easy to remember what to look for when it comes to identifying problematic moles. Here’s a closer look. 


Most of the time, your moles should grow symmetrically. If you notice that one side or area of the mole grows differently and doesn’t match the shape of the rest of the mole, have Dr. Flood evaluate the mole.


Benign moles usually have a well-defined border or edge. Moles with irregular, notched, or blurred borders or edges need to be examined by a board-certified dermatologist, like Dr. Flood. 


Moles come in a wide variety of colors, but the color of each individual mole should be consistent. If you notice a mole with inconsistent color or one that has spots in pink, red, white, or blue, it’s time to have the mole evaluated. 


Moles of any size can be cancerous, though most of the time smaller moles are more likely to be benign. Keep an eye on moles larger than a quarter inch across. At your annual skin check, Dr. Flood notes any large moles and tracks them over time.  


Healthy moles are generally stable, unchanging moles. Noticeable changes to the shape, size, texture, or color of existing moles requires an evaluation. 

Using the ABCDE method, if you notice a suspicious mole, don’t wait to schedule an appointment with Dr. Flood. The earlier Dr. Flood evaluates your skin and any alarm-raising moles, the more likely you’ll enjoy fast and effective treatment should it turn out to be cancerous.

Options for problematic moles

Before removing any moles, Dr. Flood conducts a skin cancer screening. He looks for anything suspicious and helps you stand guard against skin cancer by increasing your awareness of questionable areas you should watch. 

To determine if a mole is cancerous or benign, Dr. Flood may remove a small portion or all of a mole for a biopsy. Treatment depends on the results of any biopsy, and he can remove moles in our office. 

To remove a mole, Dr. Flood numbs the area and cuts away the mole and extra skin layers surrounding it. If your mole is cancerous, you need to know that some cancers penetrate into the deep layers of skin and may require more extensive surgery.

If you’re ready to learn more about moles or if you have any areas of skin that worry you, contact our Capitol Hill office or schedule a telehealth appointment if you’re a returning patient.

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